Liberal Dark Money Group Launches $1 Million Impeachment Ad Campaign

President Donald Trump/ Getty Images
October 10, 2019

A D.C.-based progressive nonprofit group is launching a $1 million ad campaign in five swing states calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

ACRONYM, a 501(c)(4) dark-money group, will test its message in Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, but will consider expanding its ad buys into a national campaign if results are positive, according to Politico.

"Trump's spending online [is] largely focused on keeping his base fired up and on fundraising. He's not spending as much time talking to that broader swath of American people who may have questions about this process and may have not made up their minds," Shannon Kowalczyk, the chief marketing officer of ACRONYM, told Politico. "That's really what we're focused on, is breaking things down and making sure people understand the process."

The group's strategy is to promote news content that features Republicans who are critical of Trump's interactions with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and to create ads that explain the basics of Trump's actions. For example, the group shared an ad with Politico titled, "How Trump triggered an impeachment inquiry." The ad includes three slides: "1. Freezing $391 million in aid for our ally Ukraine," "2. Asking Ukraine to smear a political rival," and "3. Trying to cover up the records of the phone call."

ACRONYM was co-founded in 2017 by Tara McGowan, a 33-year-old Democratic strategist and former digital director for the Priorities USA super PAC, and Mike Dubin, the former CEO of Dollar Shave Club. In 2017, McGowan coordinated all of the digital advertising for Gov. Ralph Northam's (D., Va.) successful gubernatorial race, according to Axios.

In addition to donating $150,000 to the Democratic Party of Virginia last month, ACRONYM was also behind a $3 million ad campaign in 36 states to register new voters before the midterm elections in 2018, the Washington Free Beacon previously reported.

The campaign, which was dubbed "Knock the Vote," shows a silhouette of President Donald Trump's face being punched on its website. ACRONYM was also involved in a coordinated $10 million digital effort with the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.

McGowan, who was Obama for America's digital producer during Obama's reelection campaign, has been the CEO of ACRONYM since the group launched and has been instrumental in raising more than $18 million, registering 60,000 voters, and producing more than 10,000 Facebook ads, according to the group's 2018 overview. As a nonprofit, a majority of ACRONYM's funds must be used to promote "social welfare." However, the group has a web of for-profit companies beneath it including "a campaign consulting firm (Lockwood Strategy), a political tech company with a peer-to-peer texting product (Shadow) and a media company investing in local left-leaning outlets (FWIW Media)."